By: Peter Linett

September 18, 2023

Back in the early 2000s, not long after Cheryl Slover-Linett and I started hiring freelance colleagues to help with our growing research practice, a friend asked me if I was an entrepreneur or a founder. The distinction he had in mind was about duration: entrepreneurs love envisioning and launching enterprises, he said, and soon move on to the next adventure; founders love leading and growing what they’ve started. The risks of the former, my friend explained, are distraction and burnout. The risks of the latter are inwardness and inertia: founders often fail to keep learning and evolving, and they sometimes hang onto control too long.

On that spectrum, you won’t be surprised to hear that I’m a founder. But I want to keep learning, unlearning, and making room for new ideas. More importantly, I want to keep making room for new people — helping colleagues grow and step into leadership roles and welcoming new researchers who care about equity into the arts and culture field.

Read the official press release here.
Read our news post announcing the merger.

Read our FAQs about the transition.

So a few months ago, I began thinking about what an ideal “forever home” for Slover Linett might look like. It would be a place that would not just welcome our mission and ethos but share and extend them. A place that understands the role of social research in bringing new and marginalized voices to the table — voices that inform change and challenge entrenched thinking. A place that cares about arts, culture, and creative engagement as crucial fuel for community vitality and wellness. And a place where the people and culture are as kind, real, and connected as we’ve tried to be at Slover Linett.

Tall order? Just a bit.

Which is why I feel so fortunate and grateful today. After months of conversations — some of them the most exciting and creative of my professional life — and a great deal of hard, smart work by some two-dozen people, Slover Linett is now part of NORC at the University of Chicago.

Yes, I’ll still be very much involved, and our whole team will continue working together as a unit within NORC’s illustrious staff. And yes, Slover Linett at NORC will continue to provide research, evaluation, and thought partnership to cultural changemakers and funders across the field. (Read more about the merger here.)

What will change is having more resources and new tools to bring to our work, not to mention new colleagues with fresh perspectives, complementary skills, and their own passions for equitable change in the social and cultural sectors.

It all feels to me like a gift. Seeing our practice welcomed into such a respected, rigorous, and growing national research organization — a nonprofit organization, to boot — is one of the most affirming and humbling moments I’ve experienced. Among other things, it’s an acknowledgment of the talent, idealism, and energy that Slover Linett staff members past and present have brought to the firm. It’s also a fruition of what we’ve been imagining and working toward together. In this new home, our contributions as researchers working to advance equity, justice, belonging, and vitality in and through the arts and culture sector will be limited only by our vision.

If you’re as excited as I am about the work ahead, please reach out. Slover Linett at NORC will be even more ready and able to collaborate, take risks, and tackle big questions with you.

And to quell any rumors before they get started: I am not retiring, just making space and embracing both change and continuity. I’ll be right there with Team Slover Linett and our new colleagues at NORC, helping imagine projects, support clients, mentor staff, challenge assumptions (including my own), and forge partnerships. Eventually, you may find me writing a book about decolonizing the aesthetic theories that gave rise to the U.S. cultural sector and its intractable inequities. Or rafting on one of the West’s still wild but deeply threatened rivers. But for now, I’m eager to live up to the gift I’ve been given.

Questions? Reactions? Can’t wait to hear from you.

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